Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

Recruitment agencies that saw the highest growth in 2022 leveraged automation and digitisation

Bullhorn’s annual global recruitment survey found the agencies with the highest revenue gains were twice as likely to use these technologies as those who saw revenue losses

On a global level, while most recruitment agencies saw growth in 2022, certain practices were more likely to separate those who saw the highest gains in revenue from those who suffered revenue losses. Agencies with the highest revenue gains were twice as likely to have digitised their data as those with the greatest revenue losses and nearly twice as likely to use automation heavily.

More than two-thirds (69%) of recruitment agencies in the UK and Ireland have begun implementing a digital transformation strategy, according to Bullhorn’s Global Recruitment Insights and Data (GRID) 2023 Industry Trends Report. This is compared to a global average of 77%.

However, many are still in the early stages. Only 25% said they use self-service technologies such as chatbots to streamline operations and engage candidates, and only 14% heavily leverage automation throughout their business.

Seven in ten (70%) recruitment agencies in the UK and Ireland reported an increase in revenue last year, putting them above the global average, while a slightly larger number (74%) expect to improve performance again in 2023.

Winning new business and acquiring candidates are equal priorities

With continued economic uncertainty and intensifying competition, recruitment agencies in the UK and Ireland are splitting their priorities between winning new clients and acquiring candidates. Both are evenly cited as the top priorities at 39% each, followed by digital transformation at 34%.

Despite feeling optimistic about their business growth prospects, recruitment agencies continue to face client-related challenges. The most pressing is an increase in job requisitions that are too specialised or demanding (according to 19% of respondents), followed by a lack of communication from clients (16%), and a reduction in overall job requisitions (15%).

Engaging existing talent leads to higher revenue gains

For recruiters in the UK and Ireland, candidate acquisition remains a challenge: nearly two-thirds (65%) cite the talent shortage as a top challenge in 2023, compared to the global average of 56%. However, global agencies that followed certain best practices in engaging candidates were 30% or more likely to report revenue gains in 2022. These best practices include engaging with passive candidates in the agency’s database, soliciting referrals from candidates, and using candidates’ preferred methods of communication, among others.

The two practices most correlated with success were redeploying candidates and database utilisation. Globally, the agencies that lined up the highest proportion of workers for new roles before the end of their assignments and those that most frequently filled a position with a candidate already in their database were twice as likely to report revenue gains last year and 50% more likely to expect gains in 2023. However, fewer than 10% of agencies use automation to redeploy candidates.

Leah McKelvey, Senior Vice President, Corporate Development & Enterprise Strategy at Bullhorn, comments:

“Recruiters in the UK and Ireland bounced back last year after a difficult 2021, and agencies appear optimistic about continuing that growth trajectory throughout 2023 despite the current economic uncertainty. As the labour market dynamics continue to shift and increase competitive pressure, it is critical for agencies to have modern systems in place that deliver a connected candidate and client experience if they want to stand out.”

“As our research shows, recruitment agencies in the UK and Ireland ranked winning new business and acquiring new candidates equally as their top priority. The firms that are delivering on both fronts and outpacing the industry on revenue growth are those that are advancing in their digital transformation journey. By adding more automation and self-service capabilities to the mix, these agencies are ultimately freeing up more time to spend with their candidates and clients.”

Read the full report here.

About Bullhorn

Bullhorn is the global leader in software for the recruitment and staffing industry. More than 10,000 companies rely on Bullhorn’s cloud-based platform to power their recruitment processes from start to finish. Headquartered in Boston, with offices around the world, Bullhorn is founder-led and employs more than 1,600 people globally.

To learn more, visit or follow @BullhornUK on Twitter.